Places shape us. They seep into our bones and grab hold of our hearts. As much as we live our lives digitally these days and find connections in the vast placeless spaces of the Internet, the reality is we are embodied beings who are wired to shape and be shaped by specific, physical places. Biola University has been a profound place in my life.
It was a Tuesday morning in July when I sat down in President Corey's office and told him the news that I had accepted a new job and would no longer be working at Biola University. With tears in my eyes I told him how hard it was for me to leave. I'd worked at Biola for nine years and met my wife Kira here. I loved my job working in the Office of the President. I was not looking to leave.
Do you remember the old food pyramid that shows how a healthy body depends on a balanced diet, with the right proportions of food groups and nutrition vs. junk foods? In our current epistemological crisis, where we are bombarded by a glut of content and information but have so little wisdom, we need guidance on healthier habits of knowledge intake. We need a wisdom pyramid.
As utilitarian and burdensome as they sometimes feel, blogs become part of the blogger. For good and for ill, they are places to vent and process aloud, to praise and critique, to know and be known. My blog has allowed me to develop ideas that eventually became books, to engage and celebrate the many things that captivate me, and to make lots and lots of lists.
Cinema is often framed as escapism, and indeed it has that quality. We watch movies to visit far away places and times, and to understand the experiences of others. But cinema at its best, and certainly Columbus fits that bill, doesn’t stop at escapism; it helps us return well to reality, with new eyes to see and love the world beyond the screen.
“Do not be conformed to this world” is one of the most grating verses of the Bible to many modern ears, yet it is not just a Pauline one-off. The nonconforming set-apartness of God’s people is a major theme of the whole Bible. But it’s an unpopular idea these days, both for Christians who wish they could blend in and for nonbelievers pressuring religious institutions to compromise on their different-ness.
Recently, on one of those "too much time on social media" days, where my frustration and anger about all manner of things reached a Twitter-fueled boiling point, I took a break from technology and opened my (physical) Bible. I turned to the seven penitential psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143) and spent some time there.
In Uncomfortable I discuss a whole range of uncomfortable aspects of following Jesus and committing to a local church. As painful as it is to rehash the warts of the church and as much as it makes me cringe to think of it all, it also fills me with joy. For it is on account of the uncomfortable, the awkward, the difficult and the challenging that I have grown.
"The coast is beautiful" is something existentially true and intuitively felt among all humans. We are drawn to the places where land meets sea, where water meets rock; two very different things, coming together, producing an aesthetic pleasure and a life-giving good. We are attracted to this because it is a familiar cosmic reality.
Though The Beguiled feels initially like something new for Coppola (and in many ways it is), the film has definite resonances, both thematically and stylistically, with the director’s prior work. One of the ideas Coppola often explores is the intersection of innocence and danger, the ways that bourgeois “play” often flirts with transgression and rebellion.
For me, rollercoasters represent the appeal of the amusement park in a nutshell: experiences of suspension and escape, where we can flirt with danger and adventure in a controlled environment. To ride a coaster is to confront fear in safety, to flip the script on dread and turn it into something about which we can laugh and scream and throw up our hands.
If we always approach church through the lens of wishing this or that were different, or longing for a church that “gets me” or “meets me where I’m at,” we’ll never commit anywhere (or, Protestants that we are, we’ll just start our own church). But church shouldn’t be about being perfectly understood and met in our comfort zone; it should be about understanding God more, and meeting him where he’s at.
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). The heavens declare. The stars speak. They bear witness to the glory of God. But what do they say? Our gaze is naturally drawn upward. We are curious about what's up there. Beyond us. Both discoverable and undiscoverable. Our frontier longing beckons us to the telescope. To search the vast heavens. To know what we can know, but maybe moreso to know what we cannot know.
Inspired by the New York Times' recent list of the "25 Best Films of the 21st Century," and because it's always fun to draw attention to masterpieces of cinema that everyone should see, I decided to compile my own list of the best films of the century so far. I limited my picks to 17, since we are 17% of the way through the century thus far. There were three main criteria for me as I considered which films to include in my top 17.
My new book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christianity Community, is being published in September by Crossway. The book is about the comforting gospel of Jesus Christ that leads us to live uncomfortable lives for him. It’s about recovering a willingness to do hard things, to embrace hard truths, to do life with hard people for the sake and glory of the One who did the hardest thing. Each chapter of the book explores some “uncomfortable” aspect of becoming the church Jesus wants us to be.
I’m a theologically conservative evangelical Christian who is ardently pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage. I’m also ardently pro-environment. All of these positions are connected and stem from my faith more than my politics, particularly a glad acceptance of and respect for God’s created order. Here are my arguments for why care for the environment should be a concern for conservative Christians.
Growing up in the Midwestern plains, I loved a good thunderstorm. I loved the way a hot, humid day would give way to billowing thunderclouds: towering Cumulonimbus puffs that morphed into ominous UFOs in the darkening sky. I loved the way a cold front brought in a line of foreboding gray, intruding upon sunny days with sheets of rain, hail, lightening and thunder that shook the whole house and flickered the lights.
I used to think people who raised their hands in worship were weird. I grew up in Baptist churches in the Midwest, where the two or three people who occasionally raised their hands while singing a hymn or worship song were looked upon with some suspicion.But a few years ago when I started to attend a Reformed Charismatic church in Southern California, things started to change.